Veterans Become ‘Mighty Oaks’ Through Recovery Program
Former Marine Heads Up Faith-Based Solution to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
by Joy Allmond
In 2008, Chad Robichaux came home from his eighth and last trip to Afghanistan and was subsequently diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
“I had panic attacks, very angry, and was stressed out. I felt like I could physically die at any moment,” he remembered. “One day I’m a special ops guy; the next day, I had no more focus. It was a very frustrating time in my life.”
Robichaux had some bright spots in his life around the time of his diagnosis, like getting reacquainted with martial arts. At the encouragement of his wife, he began teaching, training and fighting professionally again.
He was gaining a platform and had a thousand students, and looked successful to outsiders.
But inside the walls of his home, the wheels were coming off. PTSD took a toll on his marriage and his family.
“My home was not a happy place to be. My wife and I became separated within our home. Then, we legally separated, sold our home, and moved into two separate homes,” he said.
Although his wife filed for divorce, she was fighting for her marriage and her family. She was active in church, and was constantly praying for Chad.
Then, a turning point came. She showed up at his home with the divorce papers and asked him a question that changed the course of his life.
“She asked me how I could have done all these things in the military, special operations, all the training, the time overseas—how can you do all these things, but when it comes to your family, you quit? She called me a quitter,” said Robichaux.
“And for the type of person I am, being called a quitter was one of the hardest things for me to swallow. But she was absolutely right. I realized I was about to lose everything.”
From that moment, Robichaux made what he called a “work ethic decision” and labored to get his marriage and family life back on track. He quickly realized he couldn’t do it on his own.
“I came to realization that I needed accountability. I didn’t have anyone in my life to do that. So, a man from church stepped into my life,” he said. “One of the things that he said was without restoring my relationship with God, my life would all fall apart all over again.”
He invited Christ into his life as a teenager, but pushed his spiritual life aside when he became a soldier. But through a mentorship with this man, he relearned what it means to follow Jesus and what the Bible says about being a man.
“When I aligned my life with what God had intended for me, my PTSD went from something that controlled my life to just a few memories,” he said.
A Vision for Healing
An average of 23 veterans a day commit suicide, and the divorce rate among marriages where one spouse is deployed is over 80 percent.
So four years ago, Robichaux decided he wanted to do more than experience healing for himself. He wanted to see other veterans through the healing process, and he wanted to play a role in ending these statistics.
And out of this calling, Mighty Oaks Warrior Program was born.
“I felt called by God to do this, but I never really thought God could speak to you. I had just gone through this mentorship process. My family was saved, and I was moved by what God was doing in my life,” he recalled.
As he was on an airplane heading home from a retreat, God did that very thing—He spoke to him. Having a vision to reach out to the broken hearted, but doubting that vision, Robichaux opened his Bible to Isaiah 61. He read:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
God had answered him in a profound way. The Mighty Oaks Warrior Program was established and is now housed at SkyRose Ranch in Central California.
The Lives Impacted by Mighty Oaks
Today, Mighty Oaks has served dozens of men and women who are recovering from the trauma of war, whether they were on the battlefield or back at home waiting for a soldier to return.
Those who go through the program meet in small teams for an intensive six-day session, where they are taught through 15 classes, all from a testimonial perspective. The instructors are peers who have experienced the same trauma and have had the same issues.
The veterans are also challenged by some hard-hitting questions.
“We are not the grandma who wants to hug them. We are them. So we can say the hard things, Robichaux explained.
“And we ask tough questions like, ‘If what you are doing in your life now is not working, why not try something different?’ The goal is not for them to try to figure it out themselves, but to live the life God intended them to live.”
Robichaux went on to tell the story of one 20-year veteran, decorated with multiple purple hearts and a bronze star, who was at the end of his rope with PTSD.
Chris had fought in some of the most horrific battles in Afghanistan. An atheist, he harbored anger in his heart. Upon first arriving at Mighty Oaks, he was faced with the same question: If what you’re doing isn’t working, why not try something different?
After his time in the program, he was weary of his anger and said to Robichaux, “Whatever you guys have, I want it.”
Today, Chris is serving is last year as a marine, and plans to join the Mighty Oaks staff next year after retirement. Not only has his life been transformed, but his entire family has been made new.
“He grabbed a hold of it. A fire was lit under him that impacted the world around him. He’s the leader he was in combat. Except this time, it’s a different war,” said Robichaux.
Aside from the spouses program dedicated to widows and mothers who have lost children, Mighty Oaks also uses the testimony of those left behind to help prevent the many suicides that are counted among those who return from war.
There is one woman, in particular, who comes to speak to those going through the program. Interestingly, Robichaux spoke at her church, around Veteran’s Day two years ago, where she and her husband heard about Mighty Oaks.
Robichaux urged any that veterans needed help to come speak with him afterward and get more information on the programs at Mighty Oaks. Knowing her husband’s post-war struggle, she begged him to get some help. He brushed her off, saying he was fine and these programs were for other people.
Several months later, he shot and killed himself.
Now, this woman comes to Mighty Oaks and urges at-risk veterans to choose life, for the sake of those who love them and have waited for them to return home.
“She has saved lives with her story,” said Robichaux. “God has taken that story, as tragic as it may be, to save lives. God can take the worst of things and do something amazing with it. He calls us as vessels to do that. I’ve seen spouses and parents stand up and do that, here at Mighty Oaks.”
Despite the horror stories of many of the Mighty Oaks graduates, Robichaux is more encouraged than ever about what God is going through these programs.
“It’s so exciting to me that a solution in Christ is something that people are gravitating toward,” he said. “And now, instead of being a statistic when they come home, their legacy is now one of restoring lives and families.”